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Race day self-sabotage. Problem solved.

Race day self-sabotage. Problem solved.

Have you ever been in competition, on the brink of a win, then sabotaged yourself?  [Insert: a big gulp?]  High level athletes rarely admit they’ve fallen into this devastating rut and in-turn live in fear they will not climb out, let alone, patch it up. 

After all, can we really fix our own faults?

The solution to solving self-sabotage in competition may be easier than you think. To provide a modern how-to solution, we sat down with Chris McGovern, current owner of McGovern’s Cycles, Cycleution Coaching, and a truly unbelievable athlete.  Chris is not only completely experienced in the important aspects of high level competing, with his prestigious achievements as a former international cyclist, he is also a dynamic coach, and an ultra-racer. Chris has discovered why "great champions" can win when they are less than 100% of their physical, including one key element to fixing self-sabotaging thoughts.

And, although he is tough from the inside out, this was not the case from the beginning. (Something we are most psyched to talk about!)  He has rebuilt a once not so solid script of self-talk, into an internal voice of power with some carefully crafted simple strategies.  He not only to uses these strategies for himself, but for the world-class athletes he trains daily.

Look beyond the body

Everyone tends to take a solid look at the physical aspects of training.  Many of my athletes are committed to the work, and complete their assignments. They eat and sleep perfectly, and live like a monk.  All of their sacrifices and commitments do pay off...but only when they have also trained other bigger system driving their body; the brain.

Systems in Sync

I see the brain truly as the body’s computer. One part, a defense mechanism designed to keep us safe and breathing, and another part filled with components to support new learning and achieving.  Sometimes this system works together and from time to time it does not.  For example; think of the common chatter in your head, the rolling internal dialog when you set out to pursue a goal or even just a regimented day of training. Hopefully more often than not, we feel everything is in sync, the drive and desire equates to learning and achievement.  But some days, it may seem as though we question every step we take, wanting it, but also fearing it, and talking our ideas down to the ground.


It is important know if your chatter is helping you or sabotaging your physical efforts.  We can do this by simply asking ourselves; Are my words positive, and is the message in line with my goal?  The answers to these questions are crucial, and can set apart a great champion.

As an ultra-athlete, Chris has many incredible stories to share. He also manages his own race-day brain in a unique and interesting way. And we can justify that he has put a lot of time into working his own internal game plan. Enter his workroom: a mecca of hand written goal-setting time-lines, and motivational visual references, that of which are constantly updated and on display for athletes and customers alike.  Not to mention, the mindful techniques he practices when under race-day pressure.

Race day rituals

Every time I show up at a sporting event I can almost guarantee that within 2 minutes of getting out of my car, I will end up talking to someone that moans they aren’t in shape, may be getting sick, or that this is just a “training race”.  These protective messages are a common coping strategy among athletes.  They state these excuses up front, placing it on the record just in case they don’t have a good result. This type of “negative brain noise” can ruin your day, crush all the time and effort you put into the physical training, and completely wash your goals away before you even pinned a number on. 

So, instead of falling into the same rut as those around him, Chris sets himself apart with his mindful strategies, and encourages his athletes to do the same.

I actually practice positive self-talk and keep these messages on script.  Also, every time my self-talk is negative, defeating, or resembles an excuse, I use the opportunity to repair the incorrect information with a pinpointed positive message; one that aligns with my goals and intentions.  I imagine my brain is a pinball machine, and any time something negative comes down the board I use the flippers to knock it out of my brain. Although it is kind of silly, it is effective and easy for me.  I actually laugh every time, and this provides an opportunity to re-direct the "bad" thought with an underlying lightheartedness which is also helpful to my efforts.  This also can be done in meditation, or in full flight of battle. 

So if you are currently a member of the self-sabotaging peloton, it may be helpful to focus on Chris’s take-away tip: Beware of getting caught in the negative download of others, and use their self-destructive talk, as an exercise to practice more positive internal discussions, ultimately tuning into a constant voice-stream of self-encouragement.  In short be prepared; create a script, work your script, and have the tools to stick to it.

Chris McGovern brings more than 30 years of experience to coaching.  He started racing BMX at age 5 and moved on to road racing as a junior. Chris quickly moved through the ranks to spend numerous years on professional teams such as Zaxby’s, Jelly Belly, Health Net, and Sierra Nevada

Following his professional career, Chris lived Durango CO. and worked as the cycling coordinator and head coach of the Fort Lewis College Cycling Team, the #1 ranked cycling school in the country. Chris worked with several organizations including Rad Racing NW and the NorCal High School Cycling League to continue growing his knowledge of developmental cycling.

He is currently running Top Club Cyclocross, (program of Tobin Ortenblad) and Cycleution est. in 2008; both of which prepare athletes for the worst possible situations, drilling how to make the best coping actions accordingly. Chris recently was elected and served as the Team Coach for the National Cyclocross program 2016-17.

Cyclelution and Aspire have been creating, rearranging and staging scripts for athletes on the bike, for over 10 years.  If the physical and mental aspects of your left and right brain pedals are not working together, contact Chris or Traci for a complete training game-plan.   




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